The Last Refuge and Forced Migration of a Taiwanese Indigenous People During the Japanese Colonization of Taiwan – An Ethnohistory | Journal of Nationalism and Ethnic Politics

The Last Refuge and Forced Migration of a Taiwanese Indigenous People During the Japanese Colonization of Taiwan – An Ethnohistory | Journal of Nationalism and Ethnic Politics




Steven A. Martin & David Blundell

Journal of Nationalism and Ethnic Politics


Martin, S. A., & Blundell, D. (2022). The last refuge and forced migration of a Taiwanese indigenous people during the Japanese colonization of Taiwan – An ethnohistory. Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, 28(2) 206–231.


Through ethnohistorical studies, this paper explores social and political perspectives during the Japanese colonization of Taiwan which led to the forced resettlement of an entire indigenous society. Ethnographic life histories and translations of official Japanese police announcements are used to explore the 1941 Neibenlu (Laipunuk) Incident (內本鹿事件), a critical event in the oral history of the Bunun, a Taiwanese (Formosan) indigenous people of the southern mountains of Taiwan. We examine the reopening of Neibenlu’s Japanese mountain trail and its police stations offering new access to Bunun heritage to inform present and future generations. The study offers an innovative account of a neglected topic of indigenous resistance to imperialism, combining oral ethnography, and historical textual analysis.

Keywords: Bunun; forced migration; Japanese colonization of Taiwan; Laipunuk; Neibenlu (內本鹿); Taiwanese (Formosan) indigenous peoples

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The Last Refuge and Forced Migration of a Taiwanese Indigenous People During the Japanese Colonization of Taiwan – An Ethnohistory

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A Taiwan knowledge keeper of indigenous Bunun – An ethnographic historical narrative of Laipunuk (內本鹿), southern mountain range

A Taiwan knowledge keeper of indigenous Bunun – An ethnographic historical narrative of Laipunuk (內本鹿), southern mountain range

Asst Professor Dr Steven A Martin

Assistant Professor of Asian Studies in Sociology and Anthropology


Faculty of International Studies | University News


This paper offers an ethnographic life history account of a Bunun hunter, Tama Biung Istanda, from Laipunuk, Taiwan, based on academic research and fieldwork. Audio-visual tapes recorded by the author in Taitung County, Taiwan, were reviewed and translated alongside extant Chinese, Japanese and English sources. The study constructs a remembered life into readable coherent sequences on behalf of an indigenous peoples, many of whom now seek international recognition as part of their struggle for essential entitlements such as land rights, access to traditional hunting grounds, and other natural, legal, and cultural resources. The testimony of Tama Biung Istanda, translated into English and summarised here for future generations, provides a compelling new source of data on the Bunun heritage that can help to assist knowledge for the local and scholarly community and cultural resource management practices.

Keywords: Bunun, ethnohistory, hunting, Japanese Colony of Taiwan, Laipunuk or Neibenlu (內本鹿), Taiwanese (Formosan) indigenous peoples

Figures 1-7

Click on images to enlarge.

Figure 1: Bunun at the Asahi Police Station, Laipunuk 1933

Figure 2: Map of southern Taiwan featuring the Laipunuk watershed

Figure 3: Map of Laipunuk villages, the Japanese cordon trail and police stations, and the 2006 Bunun root-searching expedition across the Central Range

Figure 4: Remains of the Japanese police station cordon trail above the Lu Ye River, Laipunuk

Figure 5: Interview setup with Nabu Istanda (left), Langus Istanda (informant’s sister, centre); and Biung Istanda (right).

Figure 6: Ethnohistorical Narrative Research Flow Chart

Figure 7: Tama Biung Istanda (1917-2007) Taiwan knowledge keeper of indigenous Bunun | Laipunuk 內本鹿 Nei Ben Lu

References in journal format | Ethnography 

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I would like to thank David Blundell, Elizabeth Zeitoun, and the two anonymous reviewers for helping me further my argument. Special thanks to Nabu Istanda and Tommie Williamson (1955-2017) for the years we shared during this project.

2005 Field Research

Nabu Istanda teaching an Amis student at Mamahav village in Laipunuk 內本鹿 Nei Ben Lu | 2005

Steven Martin and Dahu Istanda below Mamahav village in Laipunuk 內本鹿 Nei Ben Lu | 2005

Surfing Munich Eisbach River Wave

Surfing Munich Eisbach River Wave

Surfing the Eisbach River Wave in downtown Munich, Germany (Surfen an der Eisbach Welle München Deutschland)

The Eisbach River Wave (Eisbachwelle), Munich, Germany, is one of the best and most consistent city-center river surfing spots in the world.

Surfing the Eisbach River Wave in downtown Munich, Germany

A meter-tall standing wave is created by a man-made stone step in the Eisbach Channel, just before it flows into the Isar River in the English Garden Park (Englischer Garten) in downtown Munich.

Location of the Eisbach River Wave in Downtown Munich | Click to enlarge

Surfers began to ride the Eisbachwelle in the 1970s, and used submerged wooden planks to improve the height and shape of the wave.

German surfer riding the Eisbach River Wave

Following several minor accidents, the local authorities came up with a plan to destroy the Eisbachwelle, but local and international surfers responded with a public campaign and online petition to "save the wave".

As a result, the Eisbachwelle is now legally protected as a cultural resource, and surfing is officially permitted at the site.

June 29, 2019 | A good day at the Eisbach River Wave

A sign helpfully reminds visitors that "Due to the forceful current, the wave is suitable for skilled and experienced surfers only."

German surfers wait for a wave | Eisbach River wave

German surfer | Eisbach River Wave

Around Bavaria

A few photos from the spring of 2019

Traveling through Bavaria | Surfing Munich Learning Adventure

Neuschwanstein Castle | Commissioned by Bavarian King Ludwig II in 1869

Jantanee at Neuschwanstein | Bavaria, Germany

Around Munich

Marienplatz | Munich Germany

Springtime on Kaufinger walking street, Munich

Jantanee Martin at Marienplatz

Thank you for visiting our Surfing Munich Learning Adventure page.

We hope you enjoy the photos, videos, and the information in the links provided. If you feel motivated to learn more about surf tourism, other Learning Adventures, or would like to arrange for me to give a public talk, please let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

–Steven Martin, PhD Environmental Management

Thanks for visiting 'Surfing Munich' and a warm 'guten tag' from Nymphenburg Baroque Palace, western Munich